As I mentioned in my last blog post, unlike progressive traditions such as the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalism, and Humanism—all of which stick closely to the college-educated demographic—atheism crosses all lines, from race to class to gender, et cetera.
Some people never believe in a god; some realize one day that they have slowly but absolutely stopped believing; some struggle with the concept and find they can no longer believe; and some actively reject the concept. Sometimes atheism is an intellectual choice; often atheism is completely embodied: “I just don’t feel it.”
Belief is one thing that can’t be forced.
Also as I mentioned last week, progressive traditions aren’t available as physical addresses for many nonbelievers. In addition, progressive traditions have a poor track record of proselytizing . . . or even getting the word out adequately. To compensate for the lack of bricks and mortar, both Unitarian Universalism (with the Church of the Larger Fellowship) and Humanism in the form of the American Humanist Association have strong online presences.
Whatever the reason, the journey from choosing to label oneself “atheist” to joining a larger community is not a journey most atheists take. Some stay in the faith traditions they grew up in, choosing to embrace the community while rejecting the beliefs. Others merely drift away from communities that might be labeled “religious” and find community elsewhere—from Comic Cons to . . . well, the variety is so great it’s difficult to even start a list.
Some continue calling themselves “atheist” or “agnostic.” Some begin calling themselves “secular” or “freethinker” or “humanist” but do not affiliate with any group, bricks and mortar or virtual.
A few—something in the single digits of secular people—will join progressive traditions and attend gatherings.
But back to the vast variety of the atheist demographic. Many people will never seek out the sorts of institutions that the UCC, UUA, AA, and AHA represent. These institutions communicate in ways that only certain people can hear.
What about promoting identity and belonging; what about communicating a positive, livable set of life-stances and life-tools that will lend meaning and purpose and resilience to lives when those lives are alienated in society?